Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Gift of a Talent

For quite a few months now I have found myself thinking about the parable in Matthew 25:14-30, the Parable of the Talents. If you are not familiar with this story, I encourage you to click on the link above and read it before proceeding any further. Grant it, I realize this passage isn't literally about "talents" as we know them, but it is indeed applicable to anything we have received from God, whether it be finances, talents etc.

I'm not really sure what triggered my thoughts being strong on this passage as of late. Perhaps working in a church pioneering effort on foreign soil and the many various hats our team here has to wear has got me thinking about it. Logically, for every responsibility each person on the team here holds, there is a God given talent being used to accomplish it. And we each wear many hats, some weeks more than others. That said though, this hasn't provoked me to think, "Oh look at that, you got this talent and that talent, and...", but rather it has made me more strongly aware of those areas that I wish I were more skilled in, those areas where I wish I could at least offer to rotate out with someone or fill a void that no one else is either able to or has time to fill. (Since the amount of people on the ministry team here fluctuates, due to various reasons, sometimes most voids are filled, sometimes they are not..we do what we can with what and who we have, and trust God to bless our efforts.)

So, in light of these circumstances, and the extreme seriousness of the latter part of this passage, I have found myself praying for God to reveal to me talents He has given me that I may not yet be aware of. Instead, thus far, He has begun to remind me of ones I have had in the past, that I no longer use, or ones that I had begun developing, but had cast aside due to inconvenience, lack of time, (insert another bad excuse), etc.

And, I have decided to do something about it. This year, my "hobbies" will revolve mainly around strengthening my skills in an instrument I used to play (violin), as well as becoming more skilled on the piano, so that I no longer freeze up or feel like I am going to get sick every time I have to play in front of people. (I don't want to stop at being "good enough", but getting past the "freak out" stage will be my starting point.:-)

There are other things God has been dealing with me about.. for example a foreign language that I don't even want to think about how many hours, between high school and college, I have spent time studying, only to not have ever achieved fluency? My reasoning has been that I don't think I'll ever live any where that it is a national language, yet, with all the time I've committed already, why not complete the process? That language is French and one of my closest friends who live here in Latvia now is from France..I really have no excuses.

I could mention more things God has been speaking to me about, but I won't. My point is this: God created us. We are His. We, including our time and our talents, are His. So, are there any talents that you are neglecting in your life? What skills has God given you that you no longer use or that you have never finished polishing off? What is holding you back? How legitimate are your excuses?

Whether you have many talents or few is not the point, the point is, is there something you can be doing (or at least be able to do, should it be needed) that you are not doing? Is there something that you could be able to do with a little (or perhaps quite a bit of) work?

Maybe you fall in a different category. Maybe you are like someone close to me who has many talents, but their talents were abused, due to their not ever being able to say "no", when asked to be in charge of this or that. Eventually they did learn to say "no"...and never stopped. This is not ok either. We can each only carry so heavy of a load, however we must all do what we can as we are able.

So I dare you, ask God what talents you might have tucked away long ago or that you may be completely unaware of. Talents He gave you for a purpose. Whether God given-talents or skills in which He provided the opportunity for you to attain them, it doesn't matter. Discover them, then give those gifts back to God.
But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money... Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

A few days ago, while in the tunnel to board the last flight on my way back to Latvia, traffic got backed up, and I found myself at a stand still, staring out the window. To be more specific, I found myself staring at the pilot, a man probably in his late 50s, most likely of Russian decent, who had a stern look on his face, and a serious unibrow. In all actuality the man reminded me of someone who may have played one of the bad guys in one of those old black and white war movies. While looking at him and thinking about this my next thought was, "By walking onto this plane I am making the choice to put my life in this man's hands." About that time my eyesight shifted and I realized the co-pilot was observing me, observing the pilot. My next thought was "I'm putting my life in his hands too." About that time traffic started moving and I shortly found myself on the plane, sitting in my assigned seat, staring out the window at the wing my seat overlooked. I then began to think about all the individuals that were involved in making and servicing this plane and how there were no doubt hundreds of people that I was choosing to "trust" just by the simple acts of purchasing my tickets and getting on the plane. In a little over one month I had made this choice to board a plane built, serviced, and flown by people I know absolutely nothing about 8 different times. And strangely enough, this thought did not have me sweating bullets, or even really disturb me even the slightest bit.

But it did get me thinking about a relationship with someone I do personally know, my Heavenly Father. I am presently reading for the second time what I would consider one of my top five favorite books "√Źn a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day" by Mark Batterson. The back cover of the books says, "What if the life you really want and the future God wants for you is hiding right now in your biggest problem, your worst failure...your greatest fear? The book is basically about saying goodbye to fear and hello to faith in God, not just faith that there is a God, but that the steps of good men truly are ordered by Him.

How is it that it can be so easy to nonchalantly entrust one's safety to an airline, etc, but when in the path of life one come to a crossroads, brickwall, he can find himself spiritually hyperventilating? I have no doubt God has came through for both me and for you many more times than any airline has, so why do we ever even question what the future may hold? There is a reason why I have decided to read this book at this certain time...because I know it would remind me of some things that I already know, but just could use hearing again. Thought I would share a few of the passages with you as well, you know, in case you too are at or approaching a crossroads, brick wall, or cliff and might find some of these words beneficial.
"Whenever I counsel someone who is wrestling with discerning the will of God, I remind them of this simple truth: God wants you to get where God wants you to go more than you want to get where God wants you to go....If you keep in step with the Spirit, God is going to make sure you get where He wants you to go. He is always working behind the scenes, engineering our circumstance and setting us up for success.....Now here's the catch: Sometimes His itinerary entails coming face to face with a lion in a pit on a snowy day. But when you find yourself in those challenging circumstances, you need to know that God is ordering your footsteps. You can have a sense of destiny because you know that God has considered every contingency in your life, and He always has your best interest at heart. And that sense of destiny, rooted in the sovereignty of God, helps you pray the unthinkable and attempt the impossible.

This book is based on the scriptures in 2 Samuel that talk about a man named Benaiah who went down into a pit on a snowy day to kill a lion. The writer is making the point that we are to face fears & challenges, rather than run from them. Those who do so are referred to as "lion chasers".
Lionchasers challenge the status quo....they don't need to know what is coming next because they know that God knows. They don't need explanations for every disappointment because they know God has a plan.....The longer I live, the more I think spiritual maturity is less about figuring out the future and more about a moment-by-moment sensitivity to the Spirit of God. I'm not saying we shouldn't make plans. But you might want to use a pencil with an eraser and have a shredder handy...I believe in planning. I believe in goal setting. But there are some things in life you can't plan or predict. And that drives the obsessive compulsive part of us crazy. We want control, but the decision to follow Christ is a relinquishment of control. Following Christ is letting Jesus take the wheel. [and not acting like backseat drivers or asking "Are we there yet?"]

I am glad to say that at this moment in my life I am not standing at a crossroad, a brick wall, or a cliff. However, it is likely that, in the not so far future, I will be. (Hopefully just the crossroad :-) That said, much like the author, I too am very goal oriented, so when I don't have a plan, and God remains mum, that obsessive compulsive side starts to get a little stir crazy. I have also learned that absolutely nothing can be done to get God to speak any sooner. He is always on time, but, in my personal experience, rarely early. Therefore I have sufficed it to remind myself that on God's time clock for my own life it is only about 8 or 9 oclock and he usually announces the plan around 11..though He has full authority to wait until that absolute last minute. He does, however, always come, always speak, always provide, always open that right door, always provide that special need. He always has and He always will. And it has always been better than I could have even expected.

Before leaving a ministry conference I attended in Louisiana last week, I was riding with a friend to the airport, telling her about how I fly standby and how I had been so thankful to get a window seat with no one next to me on the international flight to the states. I had been the last person to board the plane, and even in the past when I have bought a pre-purchased ticket early, I have still always got that terrible seat in the middle of the middle row, sitting next to two strangers. I then prayed out loud, somewhat jokingly, that I would get the same kind of seat on that international flight back..window with empty seat next to me. I then told my friend she was my witness, for when it happened. Well, I didn't just get my wish for that for the international flight, but on all three flights I had to fly on the way home, two of which I flew standby. There were also many little needs and just plain "wants" that I prayed for before my visit home and to that conference, such as clothing for the cold weather here, certain restaurants I hoped to get to eat at,etc. Some things were very important and some were just desires. God came through for every single one. And believe me, there were quite a few.

If God cares about the little insignificant things, how much more does He care about us surviving those moments in our lives when we face lions in pits on snowy days? The author of this book makes the point that had Benaiah not went through those many heart pounding situations, he would have never had the exceptional resume that most likely opened the door for him to be put in charge of the king's bodyguard, making him one of the most respected people in the kingdom.

So, put on that lion slaying attire and remember that God does all things well, has your best interest at heart (if you have HIS best interest at heart), and is ALWAYS on time!